Point Cook is a coastal locality on Port Phillip Bay, situated between Altona and Geelong. Point Cook is best known as the home of RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook, the birthplace of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is the current home of the RAAF Museum. In recent years it has grown considerably as a residential area. Today Point Cook is one of the major growth regions in Melbourne's western suburbs.
The wetlands of the Point Cook Coastal Park form part of the Cheetham and Altona Important Bird Area.
The RAAF base was established in March 1913 and was used as a flying training school until 1992. The base contains a museum for visitors; most of what is left are prohibited and restricted areas. The RAAF Williams Base contains a horizon tank, one of only three in the world. It was used in the television series Moby Dick and Noah's Ark.
This excellent museum is located at the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force. The museum tells one of Australia's most important aviation stories, that of the second oldest air force in the world. The Museum holds the largest collection of material relating to Australia's rich military aviation history. The museum has a Training Hangar, Technology Hangar, a Heritage Gallery, and conducts outdoor and interactive flying displays.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday: 10am 3pm
Weekends and Public Holidays: 10am 5pm
The Museum is closed on Mondays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Admission to the RAAF Museum is FREE, however, donations are gratefully accepted. Note that photo identification is required for all visitors over the age of 16 to gain entry to the Base.
Melbourne city skyline from Cheetham Wetlands
Point Cook Coastal Park, on Port Phillip Bay, is primarily used for recreational purposes, its parklands having a variety of facilities for visitors including shelters, barbecue areas, walking trails as well as an information centre. Activities undertaken in the park include picnicking, bushwalking, bird watching and swimming. The beach picnic area contains free gas BBQs and picnic tables. Water taps, shade shelters (which can be reserved for a fee), two children s playgrounds and regularly maintained toilets ensure that you will have everything you need.
Point Cook has long been recognised for its abundant bird life. More than 200 species have been recorded, 34 of which are covered by international migratory agreements. The best places to view the birds are from the Spectacle Lake bird hide, on the beach at low tide and at the beach picnic area. The Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary ensures that representative samples of Victoria s diverse, distinctive and amazing marine environment are conserved for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Snorkelling, swimming and SCUBA diving are wonderful ways to enjoy the sanctuary without damaging its values.
The Park also has numerous cultural heritage sites. The Boon wurrung Aboriginal people have a number of significant sites throughout the park including stone artefact sites and middens. The majority of these important sites are near the coastline or near the Point Cook homestead. Protection of these areas is ongoing and involves the Boon wurrung people.
Point Cook Homestead and gardens were built in 1857. The Homestead Precinct, comprising the bluestone homestead, stables and weatherboard outbuildings, is a rare example of early Victorian rural architecture.
Wyndham Harbour artist's impression
Directly south west of Point Cook, in Werribee South, will be the new development of the Wyndham Harbour Marina. Wyndham Harbour marina, a $440 million project, will be a waterfront development a 50-minute drive from Melbourne's Central Business District and right next to Point Cook. The new marina at Wyndham Harbour will have up to 1000 wet berths from 10 35 metres including 6 super-yacht berths. There will also be a 300-berth dry stack. Additionally, there will be two apartment buildings, absolute waterfront lots, retail space, two new beaches, walking trails and 10 hectares of public recreational space & wetlands. The development will also incorporate water/marina front restaurants & cafes. This development is now under construction with the first apartment building, stage 1 of the marina and the first beach now completed.
Point Cook was originally spelled Point Cooke, and named in 1836. Almost all references dropped the "e"; however, in the early 2000s the point itself was officially renamed "Point Cooke". Point Cook was named after John M. Cooke, mate of HMS Rattlesnake. Commanded by Captain Hobson, the ship charted part of the Port Phillip bay in 1836.
William Drayton Taylor leased the land around Point Cook promontory in 1849. The following year in 1850 Taylor transferred his licence to Alexander Irvine. By March 1852, a six-room weatherboard cottage had been erected. In 1853 the pastoralist Thomas Chirnside added the farmlands of Point Cook to his holdings. He built the famous Point Cook Homestead of twenty-five rooms in 1857. Initially Point Cook was an important segment of the expanding pastoral empire established by Thomas and his brother Andrew. As their extensive land holdings were developed substantial homesteads were later constructed at Werribee Park, Carranballac, Mount Williams and Curnong.
Due to the Chirnside brothers' deep interest in hunting, deer and foxes were introduced to Point Cook in the 1850s. As early as 1859 members of the Melbourne Hunt Club and the Geelong and District Hunt Club were invited to hunt at Point Cook. In the early 1860s Thomas Chirnside imported valuable horses for the breeding at Point Cook. The property was said to have three racetracks. The Chirnsides became one of Victoria's prominent pastoral families, entertaining the colonial gentry and organising sporting functions for their guests at Point Cook.
In 1873 the Chirnside brothers began construction of the elaborate mansion at Werribee Park. By 1877 the Werribee Park Mansion had been completed and it largely displaced the Point Cook Homestead as their families' focus.
In 1912 the Federal Government purchased a large section of Point Cook with a vision to establish the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). Due to the success of the AFC in the First World War, the AFC was renamed the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and this led to the eventual renaming of the AFC base at Point Cook to RAAF Base Point Cook. Point Cook remained the RAAF's only base until 1925 when RAAF Base Richmond and the nearby RAAF Base Laverton were built. Point Cook is considered the birthplace and the spiritual home of the RAAF. Today the RAAF Williams base is the home of the RAAF College including Officers Training School (OTS) and the RAAF Museum.
In 1920 the Chirnside family sold the remainder of the Point Cook property to Sydney Dalrymple. This ended nearly 70 years of the Chirnside family's ownership of Point Cook. Four years later in 1924 Dalrymple sold the northern part of the Point Cook land to Cheetham Salt Pty Ltd for salt recovery lagoons.
Cheetham Salt established a series of ponds in the 1920s where sea water was fed into the shallow ponds and allowed to evaporate. Dried salt was then harvested from the floor of the lagoons. This operation continued until the early 1990s, when the site was purchased by the Victorian Government. The more environmentally important bayside part of the original saltworks now comprises Cheetham Wetlands which make up the migratory bird habitat and conservation area that is there today. The higher, western section is being developed privately by various housing estates, such as Sanctuary Lakes that are there today. In 1948 Point Cook hosted the Australian Grand Prix, which was held at the Point Cook RAAF Base. The race was won by Frank Pratt driving a BMW 328.